Kevin de Leon beat Dianne Feinstein soundly in the race for the California Democratic Party’s endorsement, 54 percent to 37 percent, a week ago Sunday morning in a stunning rebuke to California’s senior US Senator. And ever since then, the media has run stories bashing California’s too-liberal Democratic Party, like this one and this one and this one.
Cutting through the spin and Feinstein’s disdain for the party, I’m a Cal Dem Party insider, I chair the party’s environmental caucus, and what happened is not what the media thinks.
Mainstream media spin is untethered to basic math -- the party has not been “taken over by crazy Berniecrats.” Berniecrats new to the party captured approximately 618 of the party’s 1120 ADEM slots in January 2017. ADEMs are approximately ⅓ of the voting members of the party. The remaining ⅔ of the 3400-person party are party leaders and elected officials (like Feinstein and de Leon) and elected members of the state’s 58 county central committees, and most have been with the party for years. All the new Berniecrats put together are only about 18 percent of the party (and not all of them voted for de Leon). Kevin got 54 percent of the vote because he has a broad coalition of support throughout the party, because his message of bringing California values to Washington inspires us, and because he worked the convention hard.
This isn’t 2016 and Kevin vs Dianne isn’t a rerun of Bernie vs Hillary.
But another recent political/ historical analogy fits better. Kevin de Leon is challenging an older white woman with a strong sense of entitlement by running an insurgent campaign disrupting Washington business-as-usual politics. He’s running against her votes to authorize wars and her history of anti-immigrant, pro-border wall statements. He’s starting with a smart coalition reflecting his base: a Latino in a Latinx-plurality state (and an extraordinary voice on immigration), a labor leader in a party made up of working families, a climate hawk in a climate-conscious state, and a relatively young leader of the state legislature appealing to younger voters.
And I, for one, think Barack Obama did a pretty good job in office.
Full disclosure: I’m the cofounder of Climate Hawks Vote, which has endorsed Kevin de Leon for his extraordinary record leading the California state senate on bills such as SB 350 (50 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030), SB 185 (coal divestment, based on a resolution I wrote), and now SB 100 (100 percent clean electricity by 2045). And I hope that you’ll join us in supporting Kevin.